What are Medical Air Compressors & How They Are Different?

Compressed air has long been used by various industries to provide power to their tools. For most of these industries, compressed air is a more reliable power source for tools compared to electricity. Compressed air plays a critical role in the medical field. It is used to power tools as well as provide high-quality air to patients. Since medical air is supposed to be pure and free from all contaminants, a higher standard of air compressors is required in the medical field compared to other fields.

Let’s begin exploring what medical compressors are. You will discover how these compressors differ, what they are used for, as well as the difference between medical air and oxygen.

Medical Air Compressors

What is a Medical Compressor?

A medical air compressor is the main component of the medical air system that pressurizes, purifies, dries, and transforms air into potential energy.

Unlike other compressors, medical air compressors are designed to deliver clean, dry, odorless, and compressed medical air to satisfy medical needs. Since medical air is considered a medical and pharmaceutical product, these compressors must meet all statutory standard requirements.

How are medical compressors different?

There are different types and models of medical compressors. That said, the NFPA 99 regulations that were developed by the National Fire Protection Agency groups them into four categories of care:

Category 1: any interruptions to the capacity in which these systems deliver air can cause harm to a patient, such as a patient in the life support system.

Category 2: short interruptions in these systems will have a minimal impact on patient care.

Category 3: although they aid in patient care, significant downtime in these systems will not affect patient care. It might cause discomfort, but it will not harm the patients.

Category 4: any downtime on these systems will have no impact on patient care.

These categories form the basis upon which hospitals judge their compressed air systems. That said, some of the different medical compressor models that you can buy for your hospital are:

1. Less Reciprocating Compressors

These compressors are used when an intermittent cycle is needed in medical air systems. They are inexpensive to install, and their maintenance cost is very low. Additionally, they produce very little noise because they are packaged in a sound dampening enclosure.

Medical systems that use reciprocating compressors do not run the risk of contaminated air in case dryers and filters fail, because these compressors keep out of the air stream and compression chambers.

Air travels from the compressor through clean copper piping to surgical suites and supply units like respirators and ventilators.

Oil-less reciprocating compressors are ideal for small hospitals because their noise level is low, and they are low maintenance. However, most old reciprocating models had piston systems that needed to cool occasionally.

2. Scroll Compressors

Scroll compressors work by moving one scroll and using one stationary scroll. The moving scroll compresses air by orbiting the stationary one. As the space for the trapped air gets smaller, its volume decreases and, consequently, increase the air pressure.

Scroll compressors are 100% reliable in duty cycles, require minimal maintenance, and are extremely quiet. Unlike reciprocating compressors, scroll compressors o not face overheating issues.

They are preferred for both hospital and clinic settings. Some of their most common uses include powering incubators and ventilators, carrying medical gas for anesthesia, and calibrating surgical tools.

3. Oil-free Tooth Compressors

These compressors operate quietly, are easy to maintain, and are self-regulating. They are a great choice for hospitals that want to prevent contamination and eliminate the risk of damage to hospital equipment.

What is a Medical Compressor Used For?

Medical compressors produce medical compressed air which is used for a variety of applications in hospitals including:

Providing clean and sanitary air:

The air filtration duct system in medical air compressors provides the driest and purest air possible. Contaminated air puts patients’ lives at risk and can expose your hospital to malpractice claims if injuries or death are attributed to contaminated air.

Aside from patients, workers who are involved in patient care need a constant supply of clean air. For the medical air in your hospital to be considered pure, it has to have 0.01 microns present.


Compressed air is used to power many tools that are used in the replacement, repair, and maintenance of hospital equipment. Most maintenance hand tools, such as nail guns and impact hammers, are hand drive. Additionally, compressed air is used to inflate emergency mattresses and wheels on wheelchairs and service carts.

General Precision Cleaning:

When it comes to cleaning dusty spaces in hospitals, compressed air is the best choice. Moreover, lots of processes in the medical and dental industries, such as the preparation of dentures require precision cleaning. Compressed air allows medical personnel to clean instruments without touching them, which minimizes the risk of contamination.

Treatment and Management of Diseases:

Many doctors today have turned to pneumatic lithotripsy, where compressed air is used to manage and provide much-needed relief to people suffering from ureter, kidney, and bladder stones. Also, compressed air supplies shock waves that allow doctors to perform minor, non-invasive surgeries without using anesthesia. Illnesses such as tennis elbow and calcaneal spurs can be treated with compressed air shock waves.

Running hospital Equipment:

Compressed air drives incubators and ventilators and provides uncontaminated air to them. On top of that, it is also used to run surgical tools in the operating theatre.

One of the most common medical air uses in hospitals is lowering exposure to oxygen for patients who are sensitive to oxygen toxicity. Additionally, this air can be used as a substitute for nitrous oxide during anesthesia.

Difference Between Medical Air and Oxygen?

We’ve talked a lot about medical air, and you might be wondering how it differs from oxygen. Medical air refers to clean, compressed air that is used to distribute medical gas. Unlike oxygen, it is free from contamination, has no odor or oil, and is dry to prevent water build-up in the hospital’s pipeline.


The use of medical compressors tends to vary depending on the size of the medical facility, and end-point demand. During peak times, you might find that your hospital requires more compressed air compared to off-peak times.

Operating at full capacity when there is a low demand for compressed air can be quite costly. To minimize cost, it is wise to invest in several small compressors instead of one large compressor. This way, you will be able to turn all compressors on and off depending on the demand for air and save on cost.

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